Centralia Massacre and Battle Re-enactment
Centralia in 1864 had about a dozen homes, 2 small hotels and a couple of general stores. Most of the 60 or so citizens were Southern sympathizers.On September 27, 1864, Captain T. William Anderson and about 80 of his men rode into Centralia to obtain information to the whereabouts of the Federal troops in the area. Looting and robbing took place, as well as heavy drinking. Later a stage from Columbia arrived in Centralia with the Boone County Sheriff James Waugh and Congressman James S. Rollins on board, plus four others. They were robbed by Anderson's men and questioned about their identity. The men on the stage refused to give their true names in fear of being killed. A train whistle interrupted their questioning, which probably saved the lives of the stage passengers. It was a train from the east coming through Centralia. The passengers on the train were robbed and 23 furloughed Federal soldiers from the 1st Iowa Calvary were taken off the train and all but one Sergeant was shot.Noon: Anderson's men returned to camp 3 1/2 miles southeast of Centralia, along Young's Creek.

Mid-Afternoon: Major A.V.E. Johnston with a company of 155 Federal troops of the 39th Missouri Mounted Infantry observed the smoke from the depot that was set fire by Anderson's men. Upon arriving in Centralia, Johnston saw the dead Federal soldiers still lying on the ground and became outraged. The citizens tried to persuade Johnston not to engage Anderson's men, because they outnumbered them three to one. Johnston paid no attention to their warning. Anderson, hearing of the Federal troops in Centralia sent a small number of scouts to act as 'decoys' to lead Johnston and his newly recruited troops into an ambush.

Later that afternoon: Major Johnston left 35 of his men in Centralia and the rest followed the decoys to Anderson's encampment. Major Johnston saw Anderson and about 80 or so of his men at the bottom of a hill. To Anderson's back was a horseshoe shape wooded area, giving cover to both his right and left. Johnston had every fifth man hold four horses, so that the other men could dismount and take the line with their single shot muzzle loader Enfields. This was standard procedure for Mounted Infantry of the day. Anderson, seeing the Federals dismount, gave the command to attack. Firing their six-shooters they rode through the dismounted soldiers, right on through to the men holding the horses. On Anderson's right flank were Thrailkill and T. Todd. On his left were Gordon and G. Todd. Each commanded about 50 men. After Anderson's men had ridden through Johnston's dismounted infantry the others attacked from both sides. Within three minutes it was all but over. Those of the Federals that were able to mount and flee were chased by Anderson's men all the way to Centralia. Many were shot along the way. When Anderson's men arrived in Centralia most of the Federals were looking for a place to hide, or get away if they could. When it was all over it was uncertain as to how many of the 39th Missouri Mounted Infantry lived. The record shows that Major Johnston died that day along with 122 other Federal soliders, not counting the 22 from the train. Anderson lost only three of his men.

Casualties of the 39th Mo. Inf. Vol. in the Centralia Battle September 27, 1864

  • 155 men arrived in Centralia
  • 35 men were left in town
  • 120 men went to the Battlefield
  • 107 were killed on battlefield
  • 16 men were killed in town
  • 123 men of the 39th were killed
  • 19 men in town lived
  • 13 from the battlefield lived
  • Total of 32 men of the 39th lived
  • Only 3 of Anderson's approximately were killed from the Centralia Battle
  • Records from Col. Kutzner 39th Mo. Inf. Vol.

The battlefield is open to the public and contains a picnic area and 2 Civil War Markers.

For more information please visit the Centralia Battlefield website.